I was born in the 1980s in a small town called Valley East. It was super monoethnic, monocultural, monoreligious. The most adventurous religion there were the Jehova's Witnesses. In post-secondary I dated a girl who was part of this group: Natasha. Natasha was a gem. She was smart, beautiful, and faithful. She even convinced me to go to a few Jehova's Witness meetings with her as evidence I wasn't just a worldly devil. During one of these events, we were chatting up a married couple who was our age, around 20 years old. I blended in well. They had a dog who birthed a litter of puppies and were looking to place them in loving homes. They asked us if we would take one in. After we politely declined, they let us know that they were worried about the last two and may have to resort to... shudder... placing them in homes of worldly folk. They were genuinely distressed about this. Anyway, Natasha and I don't date anymore.
My mother works with specially-abled children. In high school, one of my best friends, Liane Giroux, befriended my mom's primary student: Adam. He was born with Cerebral Paulsy. My mom would tell me stories about his development and it hit close to home. He was as intelligent as us, had the same emotional range, the same mental capabilities, but his body had fucked him. He was a smart young man, trapped inside a prison of a body that prevented him from expressing himself. Liane would take the time to go say hi to him every day. I came by as well, but it really was Liane who made a point of befriending him, despite it being a very one-sided conversation. My mother had been trying to teach Adam to vocalize his needs: bathroom, water, food. With strained effort, he forced out his first word in that classroom: "Liane".
I used to play piano, kinda. I never took lessons or anything like that. I'd just hammer at the keys like a monkey until the right sounds came out. Repeat the process until you have something equivalent to an early Blink 182 rough cut. When I was in 10th grade our high school decided to host a talent show. I entered the first round with a a song I had created. I had spent a few months perfecting this piece. Friends and family had confirmed my suspicions: I was a fucking musical genius. I stepped up in front of the school and busted out that song with all the depth and emotion that only an angsty teenager can muster. The auditorium stood and cheered. The music teacher was less than impressed, she halted my advance to the next round. Thank God. That was the only song I knew.